Understanding the Causes of Why People Experience Fear

Why Humans Experience Fear

Understanding the Causes of Why People Experience Fear

Why humans experience fear is a question that has puzzled scientists for many years, but until recently the best guess was that fear was an emotion that had evolved from our primate ancestors who faced off danger on a daily basis. Today, however, theories abound as to what exactly causes fear and how it can affect us. Still, most experts agree that it stems from three main sources. Our primal past, the presence of traumatic events in our childhood, and the lingering effects of past traumas. While each of these can have individual effects, the overall result is fear of the unknown, a fear that can manifest itself in many negative ways, including anxiety, phobias, depression, and even schizophrenia.

The question of why humans experience fear has been examined extensively over the years, but the results have been inconclusive. The most common theory is that fear is tied to our ancestral past. In the past, humans lived in tribes where they experienced constant threat from both natural and unnatural forces. When we emerged into the modern world, with our ability to survive and to thrive in a knowledge-based society, we learned to coexist with those forces head on. Unfortunately, that means that some of those lessons we learned in our prehistoric past are still with us, and our brains imprint them in our neural wiring.

The second theory about the cause of fear – that humans were created to survive – has some merit. There’s no doubt that many people throughout history have suffered moments of fear – perhaps because of their physical or emotional handicaps, or because of the people or circumstances around them. In fact, some researchers believe that the fear of the wolf represents one of the major fears humans face, since the physical attributes of a wolf – its speed, strength, and stamina, as well as its tendency to bite and injure – seem like the perfect traits to help us survive. Today, however, since we have begun to other domestic animals, the wolf is largely seen as a dangerous animal that should be feared and treated with extreme caution.